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Bryan Formhals

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©Delaney Allen

I browse numerous photography blogs and magazines, probably not as many as some people, but I’m guessing more than the median photography enthusiast. There are plenty of destinations to find quality work these days but I find there are very few that have a distinct point of view, and finding quality writing about photography is still a challenge. Far too many new blogs and magazines simply want to replicate what’s been done already (me too!) or have misguided editorial missions (“we want to expose photography/photographers we love/think is great/deserves more attention/ to a wider audience!”).

These days I can get a bit cranky about internet publishing, part of which comes from my own frustrations with trying to carve out a distinct perspective for LPV, but also I think there’s a shortage of critical discussions about what we’re dong online. Nobody in general is to blame for that, after all, who really wants to talk about social media and publishing? “Is blogging dead?” “How is social media impacting photography?” discussions tend to be short of new observations and generally resort to platitudes and hype, both of which we need far less of online. The critical, combative, engaged discussions generally aren’t very well received online, and in fact the web might not even be the best venue for those type of discussions. Anyway, I digress.

With this list I want to briefly comment on a group of blogs, magazines, destinations, websites, that I have a tremendous amount of respect for at the moment. There are many others that are very good, but these have triggered something in my mind that I think is worth noting. Please feel free to disagree and create your own list! After all, it is that time of the year!


About: A website dedicated to contemporary fine-art photography, founded and edited by Jörg M. Colberg

Comment: Next year will be the ten  year anniversary. If there’s one blog that’s on the must read list for fine art photography, it’s Conscientious. I’ve not always agreed with Jorg but I’ve never stopped reading his articles or viewing the work he publishes. He’s simply very good at what he does and doesn’t mince words. He writes about ideas and is a curious curator. You can try to pigeon hole him, but it won’t work. This year, what I’ve respected most are his new initiatives. He jumped back on Twitter and quickly became a must follow. He published a book, “Conversations With Photographers.” He continued his publishing initiative with Meir and Mueller. He experimented with Google+ and sharing photography books on Youtube. He showed his comedic chops in a couple of very funny videos. He does what every good blogger and publisher should do: he evolves and continues the curious pursuit of his passions.

Recommended: Photography is Over


About: “…a unique site combining social giving and photography. Its mission is to raise funds to purchase equipment for young, emerging photographers from economically disadvantaged backgrounds from Colombia, and eventually from around the world…”

Comment: The mission statement very clearly announces what you’re to expect and it’s very admirable. Tom Griggs is a savvy publisher, creating features that tap into the active online community with a keen editorial eye. I’ve always thought that the internet was a good place to learn if you can make your way through the noise. Griggs is certainly someone who believes this and isn’t hesitant to put in the necessary work to achieve his mission. I’m very excited to see where he takes things in the next year and can’t wait to view the work from the students he’s collaborating with. This is an incredibly exciting new site and one that I hope others with aspirations for creating photography platforms will learn from in the future.

Recommended: Current Microgrant


About: The blog of photographer Blake Andrews.

Comment: Not much to add from what I wrote last year. Every post is still a surprise.

From 2010: You never really know what to expect from Blake.  He operates in a mental space that very few bloggers can access on a regular basis. He taps into the photography web zeitgeist in a way that adds depth to his irreverent posts.  Beyond the hijinks and humor, he’s also a fantastic and insightful writer.  When he decides to challenge an idea, he makes sure he’s thought about the argument, and offers counter points worth thinking about.

Recommended: The Sprig and Optimal Lag


About: To joust in the melee of contested meanings in surveillance, fine-art, documentary, amateur, institution, and virtual photographies of prisons and other sites of incarceration.

Comment: Pete Brook gets straight to the point and he’s on a mission. I was fortunate enough to meet with him twice this year and each time I came away believing more and more in his mission. His blog doesn’t ask you to think, it forces you to think. It’s always smart, finely edited and illuminating. The subject matter isn’t for everybody. It’s the type of work and issues that we’d just rather ignore. After all, of all the members of society, prisoners are the mostly likely garner little sympathy from the general public. Pete understands this challenge but confronts it head on. Realistic, honest, funny and passionate. After a few minutes browsing through his blog, you’ll come away thinking and it’ll be a nagging thought you’re not likely to shake.

Recommended: Photographing the Prostitutes of Italy’s Backroads: Google Street View vs. Boots on the Ground


About: LightBox, a new blog by TIME’s photo department, will explore how photography, video and the culture of images define today’s world.

Comment: As I’ve heard, LightBox was a clandestine operation by the Time photo editors that didn’t have the sanction of the corporate overlords. Thankfully for us, they’re disobedience went unpunished. It’s really a no brainer, but the cynic in me says, “jeez guys, it took you this long to get started?” Now that they’re here though, we’re exposed to a very tightly edited, engaging dose of photography on a daily basis. They have the resources and access that most independent bloggers and magazines simply never will have, and it shows in the quality and diversity of the work.

Recommended: Merry Christmas from Lee Friedlander


About: An independent charitable gallery (Cardiff, Wales) run by photographers Joni Karanka, Maciej Dakowicz, Bartosz Nowicki and a group of committed volunteers.

Comment: I’ve known Joni for a few after meeting him in HCSP. It’s been exciting watching what they’ve done with TFG this year. Actually, it’s pretty fucking remarkable and shows exactly what a group of passionate, intelligent photographers can achieve if they have a vision and dedication to bringing it to fruition. The TFG web presence is pretty straightforward and that’s all it needs to be. They’re able to get the word out to the right people and have been successful in raising the necessary funds to keep them afloat. In their first two years, they’ve exhibited Tomas Van Houtryve, Rob Hornstra, Ben Roberts, David Hurn, Laura Pannack, Chris Steele-Perkins, Peter Dench, and Carolyn Drake. That’s impressive. What more can you say?

Recommended: Support Us


About: Wayne Bremser’s Tumblr/Blog.

Comment: My favorite blog on Tumblr. Wayne is smart and the connections he makes between photographs is stimulating (“Bremser Image Telephone.”) He doesn’t write much, but when he does, it’s always very insightful and relevant. The photos run the spectrum from contemporary to historical, and are generally photographs that haven’t been heavily circulated in our visually saturated internet wasteland.

Recommended: How to Photograph the Entire World: The Google Street View Era


About: Facebook group of Flake Photo. “My hope is that by hosting online photo conversations in a single place the FPN will make it easier to share ideas and meet photography colleagues using Facebook.”

Comment: Maybe the years I’ve spent in photography forums has made me jaded, and kind of skeptical of these ‘community’ organizing initiatives, but I applaud Andy for his ability to bring together people that might not normally participate in photography forums. There’s plenty of conversation, insights and idea sharing happening on a weekly basis to keep my interest. It can be a great resource and it’s always interesting to read the opinions of people that don’t normally share them publicly.

Recommended: If you can get in…and tolerate the self-promotion.


About: The blog of duckrabbit, an award-winning digital production company.  We work with documentary audio, still photography and video to make compelling film and audio narratives for commercial, charity and broadcast clients.

Comment: There are  some blogs you like because of the attitude. duckrabbit is one of them for me. They have their nose to the grind and are tapped into the pulse of what’s happening with documentary photography and photojournalism. They’re opinionated, passionate and won’t back down from a good argument or debate. One to read for sure.

Recommended: Are photography degrees the joker in the pack?


About: Bagnews analyzes and reports news and media images. In an ever more visual society, BagNews seeks to better understand the levels of meaning, the underlying story lines and the various agendas reflected in the more prominent news pictures of the day.

Comment: Bag is one of those sites that I’ve said I read but more often than not only skim. Then this year I really started to read it regularly and found it incredibly interesting and insightful. The way photographs are used by media organizations in our hyper saturated, fast paced publishing world is worth taking the time to consider. For that type of analysis, there really is nowhere else to go other than the Bag.

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About: A Photo Editor (APE) is edited by Rob Haggart, the former Director of Photography for Men’s Journal and Outside Magazine.

Comment: The online pulse of the editorial and commercial photography world. Great resource for articles that are floating around. Jonathan Blaustein’s gallery and book reviews are long…but well worth the time investment. Recommended reading for anyone remotely curious or interested in the business side of commercial and editorial photography.

Recommended: Why Does Everyone Think They Need A Photo Book?


About: I examine how documentary photography and photojournalism work, the opportunities multimedia bring, and the challenges presented by the revolutions in the new media economy.

Comment: David’s thoughtful articles typically get me thinking. His subject matter might not be the most exciting for photographers but if you’re interested in publishing and how the web is evolving, creating new challenges & opportunities, then David’s blog is a must read. Always well researched, timely and engaging.

Recommended: Agencies as publishers: a new approach to photojournalism


About: Feature Shoot is run by photographer, photo editor and curator Alison Zavos and showcases work from up-and-coming photographers alongside established photographers who have completed a project or whose work has taken on a new direction.

Comment: Alison’s eyeballs must get really sore because she seems to see just about every photograph that’s published on the web. FS publishes an eclectic mix of work, crossing many genres and styles. What I like most about FS, is that I don’t like everything that’s published, and yet I keep coming back because I know there will be photographs that I haven’t seen before, many of which I’ll likely find interesting. Having chatted with Alison a few times, I have no doubt she’ll introduce new and exciting features in the next year.

Recommended: Parisian twins photographed by Maja Daniels


About: Edited by Constantin Nimigean

Comment: From Bucharest comes this serendipitous find. I’m not really sure how it came on my radar but after I subscribed I started to notice that most the photography strongly resonated with me. It was fun to see what was coming next. Sometimes he’d link to work I’d seen on other blogs but more often than not I’d be treated to work that hadn’t crossed my radar. I’m very interested to see how the site evolves in 2012.

Recommended: Valentina Riccardi – NO RENT


About: Edited tags from Tumblr.

Comment: It’s brilliant. Tumblr has chosen a group of photography enthusiasts to edit tags and promote work they think deserves more attention. So, what you get from the chaos of Tumblr is some semblance of organization. You can check the ‘portrait’ tag and find what’s ‘popular,’ ‘promoted’ and ‘everything’ else. They’ve made good choices in their editors too.

To show the power of Tumblr, and why I think every photographer should have a presence there, I’ll share an anecdote. I signed up in 2007 and started aggregating work under LPV/Photographs on the Brain. In four years, I gained about 2,000 followers. A few weeks ago I posted this wonderful photograph by Chris Dorley-Brown. In two days, after being ‘promoted’ it accumulated over 10,000 notes and became ‘popular.’ Within five days I’d gained nearly 4,500 followers. If Tumblr can harness this viral power and create a compelling ‘Front Page,’ they could really be onto something very interesting.

Regular reads, recommended: Unless you will, Fraction Magazine, 1000 Words, Eyecurious, Colin Pantall, LENS, New Landscape Photography, The Great Leap Sideways, Two Way Lens, Wayne Ford, dvafoto, Raw File, Shooting Wide Open, lenscratch, DLK Collection, This is the what, Search the Light, Two for the Road,urbanautica, LUCEO, Banana Leaves

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I’ve admired Missy Prince’s work since I first discovered her on Flickr a few years. There’s a certain unapologetic romanticism to her photographs of the Oregon landscape that I find refreshing. It was great to get a chance to learn more about what motives her to photograph.

From looking at your photographs I think it’s probably safe to say that you spend a good deal of time outdoors. Do you go out to specifically make photographs or are you just making them while out doing other things?

Both. When I started taking photos a few years ago I just took them wherever I happened to be. But after a while the desire to see more in my images led me to actively seek out things to photograph. One of the motivators to photograph outdoors was the handful of decent images I had from various backpacking and road trips. I wanted more like them. I started to go out a lot on my own, and it very quickly became a habit.

Do you think photographers are deliberately focusing on nature as a result of anxiety over environmental concerns and global warming? Over the years I’ve seen numerous projects that focus on how humans are impacting nature. Your work doesn’t really seem to focus on that, instead it’s more of a perhaps nostalgic or romantic view of nature. I guess the question would be, are you deliberately trying to say something by focusing so much of your work on nature?

I think nature is a common focus among photographers because it is an inherently worthy subject. The man vs. nature theme is certainly prevalent. I wouldn’t say that all nature photography is rooted in environmental concerns, though I’m sure most people who photograph nature have an interest in its conservation. I focus so much of my work on nature because it’s a great excuse to go for long drives. I’m not trying to say much more than “hey look at this.” There is no editorial message. I want to convey a sense of place, and maybe suggest something unknowable beyond the obvious content of the image. I like the thought that there are elements out there that I can never know and which have no regard for me. Perhaps that’s romantic in the classic sense, but it also seems pretty realistic. No matter how much of a beating we give nature it will persist, with or without us.

The film vs. digital debate isn’t really interesting. However, your aesthetic seems to be really rooted in film. How does shooting film affect your process? Do you develop your rolls right away or let them sit for awhile?

The suspense and risk that are involved in using film make the process more exciting to me. I like not knowing how a photo is going to turn out. The difference between what you see and what you get is a big part of the thrill, and waiting for the results makes that difference more clear. I also consider shots more carefully with film. I try to take only one and move on. It’s psychologically economical. No kidding yourself about the potential of a subject and no having to choose which image is better later. Either you nail it or you don’t. Another great thing about shooting film is making prints in the darkroom. I won’t go into the film vs. digital debate other than to say there is no comparison in the print department.

Suspense is not a factor once I get home with a finished roll. I get it developed as soon as humanly possible.

You’re pretty active on Flickr. How much photography do you look at and study? Have you studied the history of the medium? Who are some of your influences?

I didn’t really look at other photography or know anything about its history when I first got into taking photos. At some point a few years ago I started devouring photobooks, blogs, and such. I haven’t studied the medium’s history in any formal manner but I think I have a fair grasp of it. My intake is haphazard, I go through phases of not looking.

Many of my influences are film makers. David Lynch’s take on The Pacific Northwest in Twin Peaks occupies some prime real estate in my brain. The photography of Tarkovsky and Wim Wenders have stayed with me over time. Road movies and westerns. Two Lane Blacktop, The Passenger, The Hired Hand. As far as photographers go I have to name Eggleston for many reasons. His were the first photobooks I ever saw and they had a big impact. The matter-of-fact quality of his images made the practice of photography seem very accessible and exciting. That many of them were made in The South boosted their appeal. When I found his work I had been living in Oregon for many years and was just beginning to appreciate having grown up in Mississippi. His photos contain familiarities that have deepened my affection for the place. As ubiquitous as they are, I never tire of looking at them. Sternfeld’s Oxbow Archive has been on my mind a lot. Friends influence me. To name a couple, I always learn from the work of Allie Mount and Anna Shelton.

Flickr is a great place to share work and get feedback. I like the constant activity and informality. I am much more compelled to post images there than to create a relatively static website. There is a strong sense of the active pursuit of images, which I find inspiring.

Yeah, I find it interesting that you don’t have a static portfolio website. I like the idea of “a strong sense of the active pursuit of images.” Do you ever try to organize your work into projects? Or make edits where sequencing adds context to the work? I think there’s something to the ‘streaming’ idea of consuming images online that we haven’t fully figured out yet. It’s like we’re subconsciously aware but haven’t really figured out the best way to go about it.

I organize work into projects after the fact. I don’t want to limit myself to an idea or censor my looking. Photography is a means of exploration and I want to be surprised by what I find. What the world hands me is usually better than anything I could imagine. Themes make themselves apparent later, narratives emerge from choices made while roaming. That’s the fun of editing. When images are combined you see something in the work you didn’t see before. It’s an open-ended game of revelation that never gets old. I spend more time than I care to mention arranging and rearranging photos.

I’m happy you mentioned editing because it’s one of those parts of photography that many photographers fear. When did you first realize how important it was to the process? And what tips would you give people who might find it challenging or avoid it all together?

I’ve always enjoyed making groups of images and moving them around. It’s like working on a puzzle. I think I realized its value when I started sharing my work with others. Presentation requires you to impose some kind of order, which is pretty much a discretionary process. I think it’s important to be able to look at your own work honestly and identify what is good and what is not so good about it. It’s easier to organize solid material into a coherent edit. If each photo can stand on its own the burden is not so great. I think looking at your photos in various contexts also helps you see them in a fresh way and get a handle on your own sensibility. I’m not sure what to suggest in the way of tips for reluctant editors. It depends on the source of anxiety. I guess my general advice would be to satisfy your own eye. Don’t pander. If you are happy with what you put out there, you are more likely to remain so as it takes on its own life in the hands of others.

You’ve made some darkroom prints and put them up for sale. How did that go? Are you planning on doing that regularly? Or do you have plans for a book in the future?

It went better than I expected. I sold around fifty, most of them in the first month and most of them through Flickr. I’d like to do it regularly. The site is still up and I’ve made some new prints and will surely make more. But I’m not much of a promoter, so we’ll see how that goes. The important thing is I am getting in the habit of making my own prints. I have no definite plan for a book but the ideas are always spinning. I made a Blurb book a couple of years ago, which was a good exercise in follow-through. It’s hard to commit to a final edit. So I guess the answer is yes, I have many plans for a book in the future.

Published in print three times yearly, you can purchase a subscription which gets you all three issues plus exclusive content including Q & A sessions with photographers featured on the site as well as established professionals. For further details, CLICK HERE.

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LPV Magazine Issue 2: Venice

Featuring work from Katie Shapiro, Mark King and Missy Prince, plus a group show with work from 15 photographers from around the globe. Published in print three times yearly, you can purchase a subscription which gets you all three issues plus exclusive conten…

Find out more on MagCloud

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Now, we’re a species of editors. We all recycle, clip and cut, remix and upload. We can make images do anything. All we need is an eye, a brain, a camera, a phone, a laptop, a scanner, a point of view. And when we’re not editing, we’re making. We’re making more than ever, because our resources are limitless and the possiblities endless. – The new Arles Manifesto

©Charlie Engman

©Alessandro Marchi

©Bobby Stackleather

©Hans Palmbloom

©Tony Martin

I don’t even like photography at all. I’m just doing photography until I can do something better. – Nan Goldin

Left, ©James Turnley; Right ©Karl Gunnarrson

©David Wilson

©Rafa Alcacer


©Randy P. Martin

Everything is a Remix Part 3 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

The stories behind pictures are preservatives, too. Tell an interesting enough story about a photograph and the photograph becomes richer and more enjoyable to look at. – Mike Johnston

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Left: Mikhael Subotzky & Patrick Waterhouse, Right: Andrea Gjestvang

Last weekend I spent three days at the New York Photo Festival, roaming around DUMBO looking at photographs, bumping into photography people and attending lectures. I’d attended the year before but only for the afternoon. This time I was determined to immerse myself in the full experience.

Thursday, May 12th

On Thursday evening I arrived and picked up my ticket. I did’t think about it but I probably could have obtained a press pass. Next time I suppose. While there I was able to have a nice chat with Larissa Leclair and browse through a few books from the Indie Photo Library. It’s an impressive collection and she’s only getting started.

The main event of the night was ‘Under the Bridge: Projections of a Revolution.’ Photographs from the recent revolts in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya were projected under the Manhattan Bridge Archway. The presentation was interesting, and at times intense with the Middle Eastern music thumping in the background.

However, it dragged on, and on, and on. It became too much. It would have been much better with a tighter edit and better sequencing. Near the end they did show some of Chris Hondros last photographs which was a nice collective moment. Afterward there was a cocktail party in one of the main Exhibition spots.

I spent some time browsing around with the highlight being the Japanese work from ONAEBA. While strolling around I bumped into Romke Hoogwaerts the brain behind MOSSLESS Magazine. We had a nice chat about photography and the internet. He’s full of ideas so I’m looking forward to what he does in the future.

A few moments later I introduced myself to David Walter Banks of LUCEO. I’m a great admirer of the work they’ve done so it was nice to chat with him for a few moments before he ran into a few more people. One of those people happened to be Tim Gruber, a fellow Minnesotan and someone I’d chatted with on Twitter a few times. It was good to spend sometime talking with him about his projects and transition back to Minnesota.

After the crowd started to thin out I got on the train and headed back to Greenpoint.

©A Yin

Friday, May 13th

I met up with my gallery hoping partner Gabriela Herman around noon. We headed straight for the main exhibitions, ‘Subjective/Objective’ curated by Elizabeth Biondi and ‘Hope: Between Dream and Reality’ by Enrico Bossan. The focus of the festival was on documentary photography, “how its practice has evolved in the digital era, and how its message is now more important than ever.

Work from 22 photographs was represented and ranged from Alejandro Chaskielberg‘s large format work to Benjamin Lowy’s iPhone Hipstamatic photos. The subject matter ran the gamut too. As you can expect, some of it I liked, some of it didn’t resonate with me. It was nice to see Carolyn Drake’s work printed large and hanging on the wall and I thought A Yin’s ‘Mongolia Transformed’ series was interesting. It made Gabi and I ask a few questions.

As we walked out I commented that the main issue that I had was that most the work wasn’t really ‘wall’ work and probably resonated more in books. It’s tough when you see about 5-7 photographs from a complicated issue or subject and then move onto the next complicated issue. The NYTimes review commented about the lack of text adding context but I didn’t really find that to be the problem. The text was fine, I just felt that this type of photography was difficult to present in a few select photographs.

Also, it’s hard to have that many challenging issues thrown at you in one exhibition. It’s almost too much to process in such a short amount of time. But overall, I enjoyed looking at the work simply from an esthetic perspective. There were lots of different approaches which I thought was nice.

We hit up a few more of the side exhibitions, including Nevada Rose by Marc McAndrews at umbradge. The book documents the legal brothels in Nevada and was my favorite body of work from the whole weekend. The work was presented as a series of “small sized prints in a single line along the gallery walls” which worked really well. The book was great too. Overall it was a very well executed project and worth checking out if you’re in Dumbo.

We ended the day by meeting a contingency of photography people at a local bar for drinks and discussion.

©Marc McAndrews

Saturday, May 14th

This day was all about the lectures. First up was Photo 2.0 by Andy Adams of Flak Photo. The night before we’d chatted for a few minutes at the bar and started talking about the internet but the night was nearing an end so we didn’t solve any of the internets problems.

He put on a good presentation. For me, it was great to hear him talk about what he’s doing and gain a glimpse into his thought process. He’s most certainly the leading advocate for publishing and promoting photography on the internet that I’ve encountered. We were able to chat later in the afternoon about some of our ideas about where things maybe going. I promised him an article about it so I guess that means I have to finally write it. That’s another day though.

I hung around for the next presentation called ‘Photography and Change.’ It was about how photographers use their work to create real social change. One of the photographers on the panel was Peter van Agtmael. During the discussion he delivered what was for me the most moving moment of the entire festival. He started to talk about Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros, whose deaths came only a few months after he was beaten up and had his cameras stolen in Egypt.

He admitted that for the first time he was really scared to go back into dangerous situations in order to make photographs. The conflict within him was palpable. The words “I don’t want to die” seemed to slip right out of his sub-conscious. For me, those few moments when he was questioning what he was going to do next were very powerful. He’s an incredible photographer. It was great to hear him speak about his work and offer some thoughts on documentary photography.

The final panel was ‘E-Cite: The Phenomenon of Online Blogs & Magazines.’ It was a panel discussion lead by James Estrin of the LENS Blog and included David Walter Banks of Luceo, Kira Pollack of TimeHolly Stuart Hughes of PDN, and Adriana Teresa Letorney of Visura Magazine. They only had an hour so it didn’t really dive too deeply into any issues but it was good to hear the intent behind each project, with the main theme seemingly to provide photographers with a direct platform where they could speak to their audience.

Holly Stuart Hughes also made some interesting points about how the PDN photo of the day sometimes brings in an audience outside the ‘photo ghetto’ which she thinks might provide new financial opportunities for photographers. For example, showing a publisher the web traffic and potential audience for a project.

And then I went home. It’s tough to really summarize these type of events when there’s so much to cover. But overall, it was a nice few days, especially since it provided me the opportunity to meet a few people that I’ve only known through the internet.


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I’m always interested in observing how Japan is represented abroad, but the last month hasn’t had anything to do with representation: it’s more like taking stock, just trying to process what’s happened. The Fukushima crisis is still unresolved, but it’s my feeling that the destruction in Tohoku is the real story. I really can’t imagine what it’s like to wake up one morning, go about your day, and by the evening have your entire town washed away. I’ve been thinking about the number of people currently displaced – it seems to be at least 250,000 – and the impact this will have on the course of not just their own lives, but the lives of people who they’ve met in their temporary locations which could become permanent.

So far most of the photographs to come out of Tohoku are, naturally, taken by photojournalists. I’m keeping track of links to earthquake-related photos, which I’ll update as new work comes through. It’s probably not yet the time for representation, though photographers with few professional obligations to “inform” their audience are also in the region. It may take longer to produce a body of work which represents, say, one effect of this massive displacement, but I’m sure that we’ll see it. The ROLLS TOHOKU project is one of the most interesting things to come out yet. A photographer gave disposable cameras to some regular people (including children) in areas badly affected by the tsunami. Someone also told me that Ishikawa Naoki, a young photographer who’s published some well-regarded books, is already shooting up there. I hope it’s not just a rumor.

As for Tokyo, on the face of it things have more or less returned to normal, though there are small clues that they aren’t quite the same: unilluminated McDonald’s signs, cordoned-off subway escalators, signs posted at stores informing you of a limit on water purchases. Not to mention the incredibly frequent aftershocks. A Japanese friend here said, “I think all we can do now is continue to live as usual.” This could be read in a negative light, but I think making an effort to “live as usual,” whatever that may mean, is one of the more optimistic things we can do here. With that in mind, I want to turn to an excellent photography book which came out a few months ago,
©Seiji Shibuya

“Dance” is published by Akaaka-sha, which has been one of the most exciting photography publishers in Japan for new work. Almost one year before “Dance,” Akaaka published Aya Fujioka’s “I Don’t Sleep,” which has already had the LPV treatment. “Dance” and “I Don’t Sleep” are similar only in that they share a quality which I call “akaakaesque,” a term loosely defined as a book that’s in color, printed with rich tones, and above all, has no concept or function other than expressing the photographer’s aesthetic point of view. 2010 was actually something of a down year for Akaaka, but “Dance” really stood out.

©Seiji Shibuya

What really draws me to “Dance” is the way that it takes the concept of lightness as a legitimate starting point for a work of photography. The Japanese photography scene has not been blighted by the self-flagellation I sometimes feel in American or European artist statements, but at the same time it’s rare to find a photographer who is willing to mount a proper defense for the place of humor in photography. In a sometimes poetical statement that accompanied the exhibit for “Dance” at Akaaka’s gallery, Shibuya writes: “There’s a difference between the world seen by the eye and the world seen by photographs. Here I feel humor, and hope… like a new bud sprouting, or seagulls flying overhead, let your cheeks be filled with smiles.” As Kool Keith once said, “people don’t always do this,” but it’s exciting to see humor taken seriously! A weighty statement could have easily ruined these photographs.

©Seiji Shibuya

“Dance” was put together from all of Shibuya’s photographs, including ones he said he’d forgotten. He told me it took roughly one year to edit, and the sequencing of the book is one of its strong points. Many of the photos in this book are very elemental, and there are a few different passages which riff on the same subject, like fire, or flowers. Himeno-san, Akaaka’s editor, used a similar technique in “I Don’t Sleep,” but in that book it was used to convey emotional tension. Here, it’s more like prolonging something pleasurable. Hedonism and photography go hand in hand, but I think this is a unique way to represent it. This short video shows a little over half of the book, including two of these passages:

Aside from this editing technique, Shibuya’s work also stands out for some individual snapshots which are really well done. At times the photos are a little bit vague, but they are balanced out by other photos with exceptionally strong composition. The photo of a woman sitting on a bench, together with cherry blossoms and an ad for chocolate particularly struck me.

©Seiji Shibuya

©Seiji Shibuya

Shibuya is not trying to say anything too obviously “important” with “Dance,” but there’s a place for that even in light of what’s happening in the rest of Japan. His work has a clear direction, and he’s brought this concept in line with his photos without forcing anything. This unburdened approach to photography strikes me as a breath of fresh air, and it’s certainly not a bad time for that now.

“Dance” is available at the Japan Exposures bookstore.

©Seiji Shibuya

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“ When you realize that you have been with these women and you have left them and broken their hearts — and look, let’s be real here. I don’t own an apartment. I don’t own a house. I don’t own a car. I don’t have any stocks and bonds. All I own are my cameras. That’s it. And some cowboy boots. If you want to be a success financially, please don’t follow this path. ” – Stanley Greene

©Camilo Delgado Castilla

©Lukasz Wierzbowski

©Kurt Manley

©Brad McMurray

©Simon Kossoff

“But a guy devoting his creative life to art photography? With no immediate recognition or reward? No one has the foggiest clue how to approach that. They know I carry a camera. On some level they know I’m involved in that life, consumed even. But my daily routine and activities are beyond comprehension, beyond curiosity even. I may as well be painting rocks in the driveway or tossing grass seed from an overpass. Just as productive. What’s there to talk about?” – Blake Andrews

©Stevie Dacanay

©Mark Alor Powell

©Luis Torres

©Paul Russell

©Pierre Wayser

“Photography, and our understanding of it, has spread from a centre; it has, by infusion, penetrated our consciousness. Like an organism, photography was born whole. It is in our progressive discovery of it that its history lies.” – John Szarkowski

Photographs on the Brain Issue #1 is available through MagCloud. You can follow the pool on Flickr.  For daily LPV aggregation, Tumblr is the place.

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TEDxAmsterdam: Hans Aarsman from TEDxAmsterdam on Vimeo.

“Hans Aarsman, a photographer, resumed by talking about his work, exploring different concepts of beauty in photography. He arrived at the paradoxical conclusion that “if you want to make an interesting picture, you ought not to want to make it” and contrasted the notion of aesthetic photographic beauty with an investigative type, where beauty lies in discovering something through or in the picture. He summarised the benefits of this approach: “I got paid more money and I moved into a bigger apartment”.

I hadn’t come across this before, but thanks to HCSP, it drifted my way today.  It’s great, and made me think about an idea we’ve discussed around here a few times, and that’s artistic ambition.  Aarsman gave up photography, gave up concepts, themes, series and projects.  And he felt liberated.

He eventually picked up a camera again, simply to document things he was throwing away.  In an ironic twist, the work was eventually published in FOAM.

It made me think about how there are times when I come upon a project or series of work and feel the photographs are completely detached from the concept or statement.  This happens often actually.  It’s a tricky thing, and I’m not sure where I stand on it, but I know “if you want to make an interesting picture, you ought not to want to make it,” is one of those philosophical phrases that tends to gnaw at you for awhile.

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